Saturday, December 10, 2011

2011 Greenwich-Stamford Christmas Bird Count

Westmoreland Sanctuary staff will be participating in the Greenwich-Stamford CBC again this year on Dec 18th.  This year the count in Greenwich turns 100, and we're excited to be a part of this milestone.  While the Greenwich CBC has evolved over the years since its inception in 1911, the importance of the count and the dedication of the many volunteers who participate has not changed.  In fact, as one of the oldest citizen science projects in the world, the Christmas Bird Count becomes more critical for bird research and conservation efforts each year.

In a few short words, here's how the organizers at Audubon Greenwich summarize how the count works:
"The count happens in two ways. Many sign up for all or part of the day with a ‘count team’ in the field. Others, who live within Audubon Greenwich’s 15-mile wide count circle, can volunteer to count in their backyards and send the results on a CBC Reporting Form to the local Count Captain, Brian O’Toole. The data then gets compiled and sent to bird researchers and scientists worldwide. So start a new family tradition that will make a real difference."

Greenwich-Stamford Christmas Bird Count circle
If you're wondering where the count circle is located, here's a general map of the area.  If you'd like to participate from home, but you're not sure if your home falls within the confines of the count circle, contact Audubon Greenwich at 203-869-5272.  Of course, you don't have to live within the count circle to participate out in the field, so use the same number listed above to sign up for one of the many count parties that will be canvasing the area for birds.

We're looking forward to a great day out in the field on Sunday, Dec 18.  Steve and I always have a great time, and we're looking forward to having Arthur Green join our count party again this year.  We'll post a list of our sightings here when we're finished for the day.  Hope you'll join us too!  Here's a look at our results from the 2010 CBC.

Good Birding,
Adam Zorn, Naturalist

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Save Your County Parks!

The follow message was provided in an email from Michael Gambino, Curator/Director of Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary, Rye, NY in regards to Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino's proposed budget cuts to the Westchester County Parks. Please take a moment to read Michael's message regarding the future of Westchester County's park system.

Dear friend,

I'm still in a bit of shock since yesterday when I learned that county executive Rob Astorino and the parks commissioner have targeted the entire Westchester County Conservation division for termination as of December 31. I am still trying to grasp the reality of this, but we do not have much time in which to mobilize people to demand that this plan be changed to keep the parks intact and the naturalists employed. Surely, there are other places to get that money instead of destroying all the work done by dedicated curatorial staff since the parks system was created in 1925. It can be done! The Trailside Nature Museum at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, just to give perspective, was built during the Great Depression!

The County Board of legislators will vote on the proposed budget and a final answer/vote is due by 12/27 (it may happen sooner). Please make some noise and pressure the legislators to demand that the nature centers and staff be put back into the budget.

What I am asking you to do, on behalf of the curators/naturalists and the tens of thousands of residents who visit these nature centers each year, is to send a notice to local environmental organizations and other interested parties to inform them, and ask them to write letters and e-mails and make phone calls to "keep the nature centers open and staffed".

Here are the implications for the future:
1. Parks that will be affected (that I know of): Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary, Marshlands Conservancy, Ward Pound Ridge Reservation (only the Trailside Nature Museum operations), Lenoir Preserve, Cranberry Lake Preserve, and possibly other county facilities. (Astorino stated that 6 nature centers would be closed).

2. All Westchester County operated nature centers will be shut down, and in some cases the parks themselves may be closed and gated.

3. There will be no rehiring in the foreseeable future for these parks. (Imagine a year or more without your park as beautiful as you know it today).

The implications and potential reality for these parks and facilities is that without staff on site to maintain the nature centers and the acreage of the parks, decades of progress has the potential to deteriorate in short order.

For example:
• when storms blow down trees, they will remain and accumulate there blocking trails and creating hazards

• buildings will be permitted to grow moldy and rodent infested, and subject to vandalism and property destruction.

• No trash will be cleaned from the trails or shorelines.

• dog owners who are non-compliant wit lease laws and sanctuary restrictions will let their dogs run wild potentially harming and stressing the wildlife.

• some cyclists/mountain bikers will take to the protected trails degrading and eroding them in short order

• no one will be available to take care of injured wildlife that happens at some point each year.

• Invasive plants will thrive unchecked, setting back decades of labor in opening and creating habitat diversity.

• Trails will be overgrown, as will all the open fields currently mowed to create habitat diversity.

• parks will potentially become less safe to visit since there will be no curator presence to act as guardians

• and more. . .

Additionally, there will be NO educational programs offered of any kind for the public or for the school children at these parks. There will be NO interpretive experts (curators/naturalists) at the parks to assist the public in learning more about nature, the environment and conservation issues. NO summer ecology programs will take place. NO special guest presenters at the nature centers.

Local tax dollars have paid for parks and for the staff to provide meaningful, family-oriented nature-based activities. Now these benefits are going to be cut out completely, but residents will still be paying those taxes. The curators and naturalists are dedicated civil servants who give their blood, sweat, and tears to provide wholesome, stress-reducing, educational experiences to anyone who visits one of these parks.

Please SIGN and send a copy of the attached letter to the legislators listed below (cut and paste text at very bottom of this message).

Westchester County Board of Legislators 800 Michaelian Office Building
148 Martine Avenue, 8th Floor
White Plains, New York 10601
Main Tel: (914)995-2800 ; Fax: (914)995-3884

*Click on a name below to send an email.

John G. Testa1
Peter Harckham (Majority Leader)2
John Nonna3
Michael B. Kaplowitz4
Martin Rogowsky6
William J. Ryan5
Judith A. Myers (Majority Whip)7
Alfreda A. Williams8
William Burton9
Sheila Marcotte10
James Maisano (Minority Leader)11
MaryJane Shimsky12
Lyndon Williams (Vice Chair)13
Bernice Spreckman14
Gordon A. Burrows (Minority Whip)15
Kenneth W. Jenkins (Board Chair)16
José I. Alvarado17
Here is the budget proposal you can read for yourself:


Dear County Legislator (insert your legislator's name), 

I was deeply disturbed to hear that the budget cuts proposed by County Executive Rob Astorino include shutting down all the county operated nature centers and laying off the staff of curators and naturalists that work there. I am writing to inform you that I am opposed to such cuts, and respectfully and emphatically urge you to vote against including these cuts in the 2012 budget for Westchester County.

In a time when our government prides itself on how "green" it can be, it is inconceivable that our County Executive would even consider terminating the entire Conservation Division of the County Parks Department! Local tax dollars have paid for parks and for the staff to provide meaningful, nature-based activities for families, school groups, scouting troops, veterans outings, religious retreats, and other community organizations. With the growth of our urban areas, the parks remain the only sanctuaries where our community members can experience nature. These services are MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER for Westchester County residents to have access to in these depressed economic times. Now these benefits are slated to be cut out completely, and residents will still be paying the same taxes. The curators and naturalists who staff these nature centers in their respective parks are dedicated civil servants who give their blood, sweat, and tears to provide wholesome, stress-reducing, educational experiences to anyone who visits these parks. Nature-based education and experiential interaction with our natural world is a fundamental necessity for health and well-being for each person.

Our curators and naturalists do even more than provide public programming. They also serve a very important function in protecting the endangered species of our parks, as well as managing visitors so that their activities do not have a negative impact on the wildlife or habitats (e.g., keeping dogs away from animals, preventing treasure hunters from taking plants or rocks, reducing erosion from damaging activities, keeping fishermen away from protected waterways, protecting nesting birds, pollution control). They also maintain a safe system of trails and waterfront, including repairing/maintaining boardwalks, mowing/pruning paths/trails, removing hazards from storm damage, organizing community beach clean-ups and trail wood-chipping, and restoring areas damaged from over-use by people. One overlooked but vital function is the gathering and maintaining a scientific database of field observations. These scientific endeavors include: monitoring biodiversity by cataloging all the species of flora and fauna within our parks (which are important markers of the status of our park ecosystems), tracking the population growth or decline of endangered plant and animal species (another marker of successful conservation in action), water testing (a critical indicator of the health of our wetlands), and a variety of other field measurements. Our curators have initiated (including receiving grant funding!) or assisted in many scientific projects, including: the effects of filters in reducing contaminants from parking lot drains that are channelled into our parks' water systems, removing invasive plants and creating a protected native re-forestation area and a wildflower meadow studying the degree of overpopulation of invasive animals species (e.g., Asian green crab) or native species (e.g., deer), and many more activities too numerous to list.

We need our curators and naturalists, and we need our Nature Centers to remain open! I urge you to fight to keep the nature centers open and staffed.

Thank you,

(Sign your name)

Friday, November 11, 2011

EAB and ALB info session

Since this past summer's discovery of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) at the West Point campus in Orange County, NY, our staff has been corresponding with Michael Singho, a Horticultural Inspector with the NYS Dept of Agriculture and Markets.  If you've been in the museum over the past few months, you've probably noticed the big posters about Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) as well as information packets about EAB.  These educational brochures were provided by Mr. Singho as a cooperative effort to get the word out about the invasion and destructive potential of these two exotic insect species.

Mr Singho will be presenting a special lecture open to the public at the Greenburgh Public Library on Dec 8th at 10am.  Here is the text of Mr. Singho's email to Westmoreland:

I am writing to inform you that I will be giving an Asian Longhorned Beetle and Emerald Ash Borer update at the Greenburgh Public Library (300 Tarrytown Road, Elmsford NY 10523) on Thursday December 8 th , 2011 at 10:00am.

The session will last approximately 2 hours, and include a question and answer portion.

In addition to my presentation, Rick Harper of Cornell Cooperative Extension will be in attendance to answer pesticide and preventative treatment questions.

As many of you know Emerald Ash Borer has been found in Orange County.  Although it is unknown which direction the beetle will migrate in next, its arrival in Westchester County is inevitable.  When it does arrive, there will be some drastic changes to wood handling practices as the quarantine law is imposed.

Although I encourage everyone to attend, those who work in Orange County (or north) will find this session of particular interest.

Please contact Anne Jaffe-Holmes of the Greenburgh Nature Center to pre-register at 914-813-1251. 

The Westmoreland staff would like to encourage all who are available to attend to do so.  The control and mitigation of this problem will require the diligent eyes and participation of all NY citizens.  Please help us in the fight to protect our forests and community trees from these destructive pests.

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Leave Leaves Alone

The following message was contained in an email from the Town of Bedford:

Fellow Residents, 

Autumn is here, and with it the annual ritual of fall leaf clean-up is under way. I want to urge a practice that can help us control costs, keep your property healthier, and protect the environment.  

We have come to consider leaves something to be disposed of – instead of viewing them as the valuable resource they are. We spend time blowing or raking them into piles on the street, into bags stacked curb-side, left for town pickup. When the Town collects, hauls, and disposes leaves, it costs taxpayers more than $30,000 a year! But what we’ve done is interrupt nature’s own processes, remove the nutrients in the leaves, instead of returning them to nourish the soil and the grass or plants that grow on your property.

The best thing you can do with your leaves is leave them on your property. 

You can: 
 • Shred them with a lawn mower using a mulcher mower and simply leave them in place on your lawn. (A regular homeowner mower works well too if you remove the collection bag and close the flap.) Mower deck attachments for commercial landscapers are available and mulch leaves very effectively.  
• Compost them in a pile or container; with or without shredding, but shredding is reduced more quickly to compost.  
• Shred them and use them as mulch on your borders and flowerbeds.  
• If you border a wooded area or park, rake the leaves into the woods. (When you rake into the woods, spread them out so they look natural, are no greater than a foot in depth, and doesn’t create an unsafe condition for those who may walk there.) 

You can do this yourself if you take care of your own property. If you use a contractor, you can ask them to use these procedures this fall. If they aren’t sure what to do, you can urge them to attend training being offered in Dobbs Ferry Village Hall,October 27th @ 7pm or at Eastchester Town Hall November 3rd @ 7:45pm. 

The benefits are clear. You’ll reduce your need for commercial fertilizers, and may never buy mulch again. You’ll save effort: most homeowners (and landscapers) find that mulching leaves in place actually is easier than raking or blowing them to the curb. It helps keep your property healthy: leaf mulch recycles nutrients into your soil and helps retain moisture, reducing the need for watering in dry spells. The less picked up, the less the Town needs to spend on disposal. It reduces noise pollution by not requiring as much blowing around of leaves. Finally, transporting and disposing leaves wastes energy and contributes to pollution. 

For more information about mulching-in-place and composting of leaves, go to either of two sites put up by local villages: 

Once you start doing this, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is and how silly the old ways seemed. 

Thank you, Lee Roberts

Please leave your leaves alone this fall!  It's best for you, your lawn, and the environment!

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

Monday, September 26, 2011

Adventures in the Outdoors synopsis

Here's a quick video from the Bedford-Katonah Patch about Adventures in the Outdoors Weekend 2011:

Check out our website for more information about the remainder of this fall's weekend programming.  We hope to see you at the sanctuary!

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

Friday, September 23, 2011

Adventures in the Outdoors Update

September 24-25, 2011

Because of weather-related issues, we have amended the events schedule to move as much of Saturday's events and activities inside the Nature Museum.  Please see below for specific program updates related to Saturday's schedule.  All activities for Sunday are currently scheduled as planned until further notice.  Please check back Saturday afternoon/evening to view any changes made to Sunday's schedule.

Because of the expected deluge and associated flood potential, the tractor rides have been canceled for Saturday.  We will make a determination of the trail condition and post an update about the possibility for tractor rides on Sunday once the rain stops.

There is NO admission/entrance fee for this event! Only workshops/programs require registration.  Other activies such as the community expo, crafts, tractor rides, food concessions, etc are open to everyone - no registration required!

Scroll down for event details!

Schedule of Events

Saturday, 9am-10:30am
Observe wild song birds being captured, banded and released by Sanctuary staff during this unique program.  Bird banding is a continent-wide science project managed by the US Geological Survey that uses data collected from individual birds to further bird science and conservation.  All ages welcome.
Presented by Westmoreland Sanctuary

Saturday, 11am-12:30pm
Learn about and witness the extraordinary natural phenomenon that is hawk migration.  Each fall as many as 16 species of raptors pass through the skies overhead on their journey south.  Bring binoculars.  All ages welcome.
Presented by Westmoreland Sanctuary and The Bedford Audubon Society

KID'S HIKE Still on, weather permitting
Saturday, 11am-12pm
Join this guided hike geared for kids.  We’ll explore the forest ecosystem and search for signs of animal life and other signs of the season.  All ages welcome.
Presented by Westmoreland Sanctuary

SPECIAL PRESENTATION BY THE NATURE OF THINGS Indoor program, Registration still available!
Saturday, 1pm-2:30pm
Live Animal presentation by The Nature of Things (visit their website).  All ages welcome.
The Nature of Things is an environmental outreach program that presents quality live animal presentations to schools and centers throughout the greater Metropolitan areas in New York and Connecticut.  The Nature of Things presents hands-on, age-appropriate science education that utilizes their extensive live animal collection.

BIRD FEEDER WORKSHOP Indoor program, Registration still available!
Saturday, 3pm-4:30pm
Learn the basics of bird feeding.  From choosing the correct seed to baffling squirrels, we’ll help you get started.  Participants will also make a wooden bird feeder to take home.  Suitable for ages 7 to adult.  Max of 20 participants.
Presented by Westmoreland Sanctuary

OUTDOOR COOKING BRUNCH Registration still available, Check back for possible cancellation due to weather.
Sunday, 10am-12pm
Learn to cook a variety of foods over an open fire.  We will prepare (and eat!)  a variety of foods like hot dogs, “snake” bread, pineapple-upside-down cake, and egg-on-a-rock.  All ages welcome.  Max of 10 participants.
Presented by Westmoreland Sanctuary

Sunday, 12pm-1pm
Honeybees and Other Beneficial Pollinators by DJ Haverkamp from Bedford Bee Beekeeping Service.  All ages welcome.
Bedford Bee Beekeeping Service (visit their website) began as a response to a honeybee die-off called colony collapse disorder in 2007.  D.J. has been involved with beekeeping for the past 15 years and has fond memories of his families 'bee' tree from his youth. He is a member of the Backyard Beekeepers Association, the Eastern Apicultural Society and is currently working to earn his Master Beekeeper certification from the Dyce Laboratory for Honeybee Studies at Cornell University.

MAP & COMPASS SCAVENGER HUNT Registration almost full!  3 spaces available! Check back for possible cancellation due to weather
Sunday, 2pm-3:30pm
Use a map and compass to travel through a special compass course in search of hidden treasure.    Wear sturdy shoes and be prepared for a fair bit of walking through the nature preserve.  Suitable for ages 6 to adult.  Max of 8 families/groups.
Presented by Westmoreland Sanctuary

MEET THE ANIMALS Indoor program, Registration still available!
Sunday, 3:30pm-4:30pm
Experience close encounters with Westmoreland’s resident critters.  Learn about them and their wild cousins residing on the sanctuary during this hands-on program.  All ages welcome.
Presented by Westmoreland Sanctuary

Green Community Expo - All weekend Now Indoors!
Find information about other great community organizations and resources!
Tractor Wagon Rides - Sunday, 1-3pm
Take a trail ride with your friends or family in a tractor-pulled wagon!
Fishing Casting Clinic - Canceled
Face Painting - Saturday and Sunday, 11am-3pm Now Indoors!
Crafts - Saturday and Sunday, 11am-3pm Now Indoors!
Food Concessions - Saturday and Sunday, 11am-3pm Now Indoors!


Registration Information - Walk-in Registration Welcome!

MEMBERS (Individuals/Families that have joined/renewed since April 2010)

  • Workshops/programs are Free of Charge for pre-registering members. Pre-registration ends 9/22
  • Walk-in fees apply to members on the day of the event (cash or check).  Ages 4yrs and under are Free. 
  • Discounted fees for tractor wagon rides for all members.
  • Download and return the registration form today to reserve your place in our workshops.  Walk-in registration cannot be guaranteed!


  • Workshops/lectures begin at $5 per person for pre-registration.  Ages 4yrs and under are Free.  All program/workshop fees are noted on the registration form.  Pre-registration ends 9/22
  • Discounts available for family registration.
  • Discounts apply for registration for multiple workshops/programs.
  • Become a Westmoreland Sanctuary member today and recieve all the member discounts for this event when you register!
  • Download and return the registration form today to reserve your place in our workshops.  Walk-in registration cannot be guaranteed!
  • Payment of workshop fees may be submitted upon arrival (cash or check) on the day of the event.

REGISTRATION QUESTIONS/ASSISTANCE: Please call 914-666-8448 or email

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Trail Safety after Irene


For Your Safety:

Trails Close at 5pm!

The storm on August 28th created a number of difficult trail conditions including, but not limited to, heavy debris, erosion, limbs, and fallen trees across the entirety of the trail system.  Before accessing the trail system, all visitors are advised to use a trail map (available in the kiosk and nature museum) and must always be aware of the locations of trail markers to avoid losing your way.

Watch your step!  Fallen debris, loose rocks, washouts, mud, standing water may make portions of the trail difficult to walk.  Be diligent and exercise caution while walking the trails.

Cell phone service has been very weak or non-existent since the storm.  Do not rely on receiving cell phone service while out on the property.  Take a map and be aware of your location at all times to avoid losing your way!  Should you have any doubts about your ability to navigate the trail system, please turn around and go back the way you came.

Because of the extraordinary amount of rainfall during the month of August, the mosquito activity is HIGH.  Please consider wearing insect repellent to avoid mosquitoes, especially in areas with standing water.

Do not cut any live vegetation that may be encroaching on the trails.  A number of smaller understory trees and shrubs may have been forced into the trail during the storm.  The Sanctuary staff will carefully trim or prop up branches of these valuable plants to avoid destroying them.

Visitors may remove deadfall sticks, branches from the trail as they see fit.  Please report large trail obstructions to the Sanctuary staff so they can be removed as soon as possible.  If you don’t report it, we may not know about it!  We don’t walk the trails nearly as often as our visitors.  Leave a note in the kiosk, call, or send us an email.

Thank you for your cooperation.  We hope to open the trails to their normal hours of dawn to dusk in the near future.

The Staff of Westmoreland Sanctuary